Sunday, November 30, 2014

SUDDENLY SUNDAY

Today I am cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner ... for five!  It is 32 degrees and very sunny.  It just couldn't get any better.

Here's why:


Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE CLOSENESS OF FAMILY



My kidult and her little family and big dog spent three nights here at the condo.  It was constant noise and clutter and meals and snacks and games and laughter and laundry.  And I loved it.

Little boys just grow up too fast.  I need to have these special relationships in my life right now.  And I'm actually thinking of starting a Grandson Blog!  Out of the mouths of babes.  They soak up so much knowledge while they are young.  So by golly if Braeden doesn't want to spend the night alone at Gramma's ... I'm inviting them all.  

Braeden and Dadda are learning how to geocache.  Apparently there is a website that lists map coordinates so you can use a compass to hunt for treasures.  Sometimes buried, sometimes in a tree or pole and sometimes under a rock.  He loves getting dressed in his camo costume for this man job!!!



Mr. Little Guy just keeps me smiling.  He gets so proud of himself when he overcomes an obstacle or finds another way to crawl under the end tables even though I've blocked them.  This is my REAL elf on a shelf .....







Friday, November 28, 2014

AWKWARD AFTERMATH

Thanksgiving Day was fun for me.  Even though I did overeat during my second meal.

Gary is an extraordinary cook.  Every single item was gourmet to the nth degree.  Including my stuffing.  It was actually a recipe from The Pioneer Woman blog.  Modified a bit on the herbs in favor of ones I like better.  Oh my goodness it was even better than my Mom's.

Needless to say the rest of the evening was a comatose state of carb overload.

And watching some cute boys ...




Thursday, November 27, 2014

FAMILY, FRIENDS, FOOD

Thanksgiving was Mr. Ralph's favorite holiday.  


He loved entertaining so our home was filled to the brim at Thanksgiving.  Many folks were from his office who were new to the area.  Young friends, old friends.  Occasionally friends from other countries who do not celebrate this food filled day were included!  It's an odd holiday to explain ... and of course now we shouldn't even BE celebrating.  Poor Christopher ... how did he go from being so hailed he had his own holiday?  Where did people find the information to dethrone him ... 500 years later ... oh, that's another blog ....

Today I am thankful for family, friends and food.  I am lucky to have five siblings.  Fortunate to have my one and only kidult at age 34...and happy to have two sweet grandchildren who live nearby.  I have a wide circle of friends.  All kinds of friends.  And lots of friendly neighbors.


Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SECOND THANKSGIVING WITHOUT HIM

God has blessed me far beyond that for which I am worthy.  

A friend wrote this one sentence on his Facebook wall.  With permission, I copied it word for word.  Because it is just so true.  Despite having such a huge loss in my life, I have been blessed by two little boys who are filling that hole part way up.

We have been having a family sleep over all week.  My days are numbered with an upcoming two week trip out of state ... to visit some of my BEST Maui pals who now live in Alabama, my brothers and sister, return for a week at condo then off to Maui for five months.  My heart is just not into heading to Paradise this year.  

It's busier here for me.  The family and especially the little ones keep the healing going strong.  My 30+ years of friends is coming back together.  My 95 year old buddy is not going to last forever.  Just know there is so much MORE here ... retail therapy, restaurants, movies, bookstores, road trips, scenery.  From Portland I can be at the Coast in 90 minutes or on top of Mt. Hood or in high desert country.

Maui was OUR special place.  So I'm just not sure how this will play out.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THANKFUL FOR THANKSGIVING


This year my little family and I are starting new traditions.  We will celebrate holidays before or after that "actual" date.  They have other family and friends and it was just too much last minute planning for this Awkward Widow.

Which puts me in the enviable position of weaseling my way in to other peoples "on the day" festivities.  Thanksgiving has worked out perfectly.  Mary Beth invited me to her fabulous manfriend's for a gourmet dinner.  All I have to bring is stuffing (my favorite!).  She visits her Mom in assisted living for an early turkey luncheon so our gathering will be a sophisticated 5:00 pm.

So when I got a last minute invitation to join Grandpa George for an 11:00 am turkey lunch, I could do both!  He is still trying to adjust to his new, more dependent assisted living.  His son and wife live in Denver and had planned to come but her father died so they have more urgent commitments.  Bendy, his daughter, was disappointed that it would be like any other day ... just her and her boyfriend and her Dad.  

While he needs the physical help of living in this wing of his retirement center, he is not at all happy about just staying in his little studio room.  He is the epitome of social.  I'm going to pop over early this evening to join him for his dessert ... and maybe a sip of Scotch.

It's getting harder and harder for me to think about being in Maui for five months.



Monday, November 24, 2014

GROWING


Being part of a village is so amazing to me.  The more involved I get, the more great people I meet.  Sometimes the red tape bothers me, as well as the S-L-O-W progress.  I forget that most of these people have other outlets for their community volunteering.  

We do have a tiny Facebook presence now and I saw this on another Village page.  It touched me.  Sometimes we just need a positive connotation to change our whole outlook.  Growing, not just getting older.

The past week I spent more time with people younger than me.  I think we all need the intergenerational friendships to help maintain perspective.  This morning it was very exciting to get a text from a former neighbor who is a sophomore at college and home for Thanksgiving.  She wanted to take me to lunch!  We got together once this summer as well.  It's so curious to me because she seems so shy.  And she was one of Mr. Ralph's favorites!  Friendship that is just meant to be.

I like to watch others growing!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

MISSING MY MAN ....


Close friends often ask me about dating and moving on and finding another soulmate.  It's still not even entering my mind.

Today I began setting out a few Christmas things.  And had a crying jag over a swan music box that plays Amazing Grace.  I collected swans while married to Mr. Ralph ... because they mate for life.  He loved the song.  That one small, beautiful object hit my heart.  

It is just us.  Always was and always will be.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ...

Christmas!


I can't believe I haven't blogged for THREE whole days!  In fact, I have barely taken time to use my computer.  

It's Christmas Bazaar season and I'm trying to add an item or two to my lost collection of favorite things.  Last night was the Plucky Maidens vintage Christmas.  It was like going to my Grandma's house!  The old plastic Santas that light up.  Old jewelry made into Christmas wall art.  Antique sleds decorated with ice skates similar to blogger Cul de Sac Chronicles (https://culdesacchronicles.wordpress.com/) is making for her front entry.

In addition, since I have just a few weeks left before heading to the sunshine, I've been booking coffee or lunch or BOTH every day!  Hosting a soup supper on Sunday.  Had the handykid take TV off the wall over the fireplace (no easy trick .... eight million wires ...) and move it to the wall in my bedroom.  Now I have to do some touch up painting there.

Love this time of year!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

OLD FOGEY WIDOW

I've officially seen it all.

Do you remember your grandparents or parents saying that? Oh, that younger generation!  Now I've seen it all.  That hair.  That hemline.  That makeup.  That tattoo.

No one these days mails a Christmas card.  (Well, I did always send one to my Mom and Dad).  When the annual letters became popular, I copied photos of the year and made color copies to mail.  Then I started doing a jazzy Christmas email.

This is just perfect for 2014.



I have to admit I am probably one of these people.  I prefer email.  Or text.  Instead of a phone call.  In my mind, it is less bothersome to the receiver.  They can read my note on their own convenient time.

But I hate when my kidults never answer their phone.  Or email.  And now they rarely respond to text.

Yep.  Definitely Old Fogey!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

ENTERTAINING 101

Whew!

I'm starting this blog BEFORE my guests arrive.  Because I need to sit down and rest!  My plan of action always takes a few days ... planning, cleaning the house, getting the groceries and then cooking.  I like to have entrees that are make ahead with only a few last minute things to do.  So I can enjoy the party as well!

The table setting turned out better than I had planned.  Who knew a single carnation would look so good with sprigs I cut from my front yard.  Lots of lights and then candles at the last minute.



Dinner got pushed back until 7pm as Jody had to meet with a VIP at her wine department.  Remember when nothing started before 7pm?  Now, a lot of the time, the invitation is for 5pm!!!  I sometimes look at these meals as a late lunch!

It was fun, interesting and delicious!  Part of "Entertaining 101" is the table.  The other part is the food .... and how you  talk about it, as well as present it.  I could have said fish, vegetables and potato.  Starting out with nuts and olives.  But when you call it walnut vinaigrette salmon, oven roasted colorful vegetables, Marcona almonds and Kalamata olives ... just sounds so ... gourmet!

Kerry ended up not feeling well enough to attend but he sent the most wonderful curried squash soup.  Gary brought an old time, long in the family, home made spice cake (I kept a piece and had it with my coffee this morning).

Conversation was lively.  Fire glowed perfectly.  Lots of wine glasses used.  And finally had to ask Jody to leave at 11:30!  Success!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

KIDULTS

I was lucky enough to be blessed with one child, a daughter.

When I married at age 21, having left a tiny house filled with eight people, we decided to not have children.  My Dad was a carpenter and the sole wage earner.  In Ohio that meant usually not much work in the wintertime.  Our "vacation" each year was to eat out at a Chinese restaurant ... where we could order anything ... as long as we ate it all.

But you know, I never felt "poor" because my Mom made everything so fun!  My Barbie doll got new (homemade...and some were the same fabric as MY new dress!) clothes at Christmas.  She would help me design the cardboard box house complete with wrapping paper wall paper.  A cigarette carton was wrapped in fabric for a sofa and we sewed tiny pillows.  We also made salt clay food items.  Actually, my friends who had their own bedrooms and ten times more Barbie stuff ... preferred to play at my house.

Anyway, when my biological clock began to tick, I changed my mind about wanting a kidlet.  Husband No. 1 could not be persuaded.  I came home from work one evening to discover he had had a vasectomy (without discussion)  so that was the end of that.  Then meeting a great older guy who already had teenagers, I figured oh well.  And then surprise.

These past months here in Oregon have been so much fun.  We get together about once a week.  Jesse loves to cook.  And then Kate cleans up.  Last night was rump roast (which I have never had before!)(big pieces of meat are daunting to me), cooked medium rare.  With carrots and celery and I taught him to make gravy (or "dip dip" as Braeden calls every sauce).  Garlic bread and then I practiced the crash smashed potatoes.  Everything was a hit!

Kidlets who grow into Kidults are pretty awesome.  Of course, adding a couple of grandsons sure hasn't hurt either!

Friday, November 14, 2014

THE ENTERTAINING WIDOW

I've finally spiffed up the condo enough to invite friends over.  Tomorrow night two couples are joining me for dinner.

One couple, Jody and Kerry, are former neighbors.  She is a renowned wine steward and he is a chef by training, now running the Food Services department for the most chic of our retirement communities.  VERY chic.  

Gary and Mary Beth are new friends.  She manages the local amusement park ... for the past 30+ years.  Because she is still just a kid at heart!!  Gary is her beau who loves to cook and pair with good wine ... so I'm a little under the gun here.

Mary Beth's Mom lives at Mary's Woods where Kerry develops the menu.  The wine steward and the wine aficionado should have a lot to discuss.  Her customers all followed her when she was approached to leave the chain she had worked with (unappreciatedly so) for the past ten years.

I took the easy way out and asked Jody/Kerry to bring soup or salad.  Gary/Mary Beth are bringing dessert (interesting how both of the MEN in these couples are the cooks?).

Appetizers ~ 
Marcona almonds, Kalamata olives and toothpick Caprese salad bites.  With Prosecco!

Dinner ~
Salmon with walnut vinaigrette
Oven roasted butternut squash, green beans and red bell peppers (COLOR!)
Crispy Smashed Roasted ... boiled red potatoes that are then smashed and broiled and topped with cheddar, bacon bits and a dollop of sour cream.


I've never made them before but gosh do I love potatoes!


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

WIDOW CHRISTMAS No. 2

Honestly, it's hard to believe this will be my second Christmas on my own.  Last year was with girlfriends, in Maui.  Great food and wonderful company.  And did I mention Maui????

This year I decided to spend holidays here in Oregon while the boys are young.  I don't have room for a Christmas tree indoors (especially with a crawler/climber ... and a dog with a waggly tail) but I will put one up outside in front of the dining room window.  Then just a million do dads all around the condo.

Unfortunately, when we were downsizing in a crazy hurry, we accidentally took the boxes of Christmas treasures I had weaned down to keep ... to Goodwill.  Ornaments from every country we had traveled.  Ornaments we gave each other every year for 28 years.  Sad, sad, sad.  I do still have a few things from my Mom and Dad.  And what the heck!  We will just start collecting all over again!  (hinting for an invite to Michigan blogger country ... in the spring or summer though!)

Today a neighbor invited me to a Christmas Bazaar and oh my gosh I'm in the mood.  The Canby fairgrounds organized amazing vignettes with lots of room to simply gaze and dream.  It was well attended but not overly crowded.  Lots of homemade items (my favorite) and prices were very affordable.




You've probably heard about the new fad that replaces the "Behavior Chart" my Mom used during December.  Elf on a shelf.  Parents move an elf (who is often mischievous) and he/she keeps an eye on the children.  Braeden really "gets" it this year.  He named his elf Dora (last year ... watched some Dora the Explorer, I think).  I figure Gramma needs an elf to help her remind him to mind his p's and q's ...

Meet David!


Monday, November 10, 2014

iPHONE APP FOR NOVEMBER

This is crazy.  I use this one so much that I don't even think of it as an app!  My Starbucks button!

I've been using this for years now.  Mostly to pay for my purchases and get those reward points.  Which I save to try one of those fancy girl drinks!  Typically I just get a tall coffee in a grande cup (for room to cool down a bit).

Lately I learned that you get a point for each transaction ... not by dollar amount spent.  So if I'm getting something more than a cup of coffee to run somewhere else, I buy things separately.  First the coffee and find my cozy little spot.  Then maybe the newspaper.  Or a food item.  Or coffee beans.  When Mr. Ralph was with me, we each bought our own drink and we each got something free every month or so.

Having the app on my phone makes these freebies easy to remember.  Also, I have it set up to automatically reload when my balance goes below $25.  The app also has a feature to find the Starbucks closest to you!  Which I used last week when I brought GrGeorge a great pumpkin latte (his request).  

It probably does way more than this .... try it!


Sunday, November 9, 2014

I WAS DYING


Isn't this true sometimes?  I'm glad I made it to this phase of life.  Where I am dying to just live happy and healthy, and give back to my community.  Family and friends are what really matter.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

MY FRIEND GEORGE

When his wife, Pat, passed away he couldn't even come to her funeral ... he was having heart surgery.  When he got settled back at home he said "there isn't any way we could just meet for coffee once a week, is there?"  And thus our friendship began eleven years ago.

He thought maybe we'd run out of things to talk about but we still haven't.  He got a little miffed when I went back to work part time.  But managed to drive out to meet me for lunch once in a while and we invited him over for dinner and parties. In fact, he was probably 82 or so when we played charades at a New Year's Eve party.  He and I were partners.  He got down on all fours sticking out his tongue ... Night of the Iguana!!!  Heck!  I don't think I could get up off the floor at 62!!

He and Ralph had lots of fun also.  They bought season tickets for the Opera and enjoyed a night out once in a while.  He had a gal pal for many many years and we were sometimes his accomplice.  We invited them to the beach overnight and were convinced to tell them there were not enough rooms so they would need to share.  We thought it was two queen beds but unfortunately, it was one king.  He was ecstatic with all the snuggling!

Once Ralph retired, he would often go with me for our weekly visits which somehow morphed into lunch.  When we bought the Maui house and then were blessed with Baby Braeden, I had to cut back on our visits.  This year we went back to morning coffee at his Retirement Living tower downtown.  But not every week.  Health issues have been a nagging concern since about June.  I should have paid more attention to our lack of email and phone calls.  

After a month long stay in the hospital for pneumonia and congestive heart failure, he is now in a nursing rehab facility to gain his strength.  He's mostly in a wheel chair to get places and needs help getting in and out.  His daughter (my age)(who moved back from Boston when her Mom became more frail) lives about 40 minutes away and since her Mom's death, has been spending weekends with him ... grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, etc.  With enough meals to last the week.  She even made up sandwiches for the week!

Tomorrow they are moving GrGeorge to assisted living at the same complex.  I hope he gets his mojo back!

Friday, November 7, 2014

WATCHING END OF LIFE PROCESS

Over twenty years ago, I befriended a woman whose children lived out of state.  I was paying back for the fact that Ralph's mom was able to live at home because of all the help she received from friends and neighbors and church.  And a few paid helpers.

Pat had Parkinson's Disease and just needed a gal pal.  I would visit once a week.  Fortunately, she lived just a mile away.  After a bit, we got together as a foursome and the men hit it off as much as we did.  The best part?  Kate had "local" grandparents who ooooohed and aaaaahed over her.  Their condo had a pool and every week in the summer, she could bring a friend.  GrPat and GrGeorge provided snacks and sodas.  We oldsters would chat while the girls played.

In the beginning, she could  accompany me out and about.  I bought a minivan with leather seats so she could use a step stool then slide right in.  We had great fun!  Shoe shopping and she would have me "hide" the shoes at my house and sneak them over when GrGeorge was away.  Need I tell you she was the Imelda of the neighborhood????

As her disease progressed, she went to care homes a few times.  They would build up her strength and she would be well enough to come home.  Until it was permanent.  I continued my once a week.  Her every loving husband went EVERY DAY.  For several years.  EVERY DAY.

We celebrated so many holidays together.  I'm just missing her and Ralph today as I plan Thanksgiving.

And worry about GrGeorge who is being moved to assisted living today at age 95.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CALL THE FIRE DEPARTMENT!

Fortunately, I have never had to call the Fire Department.  What brave fighters they are.  They are usually the first on the scene ... I can't imagine the horror some have seen.  Burning buildings, auto accidents, cars smashing into pedestrians (yes, that happened here on trick or treat night).

One of my uncles retired as a Lieutenant in the Fire Department.  So glad he LIVED til retirement!  A few years ago I worked with a consulting group who specialized in helping fire departments grow and change.  Analyzing data to determine where to locate a new station.  Training fire fighters for management positions.  Helping retired fire fighters to find jobs at smaller departments who cannot afford typical chief pay (win/win there!).

A young friend trained and studied to become a fire fighter which is how I learned how tough it is to get in!  Hundreds of people try for one spot.  I think most people have to be on a volunteer department and work their way up.  The benefits are outstanding and a lot of the benefits are for life.  And I don't begrudge them a single penny.  

In an effort to broaden Braeden's career passions ... we are now doing a lot of fire fighting around here ....


In fairness, he wants to be an Army fire fighter ....


Monday, November 3, 2014

DEATH, DYING and DETERMINATION

Sunday was a farewell gathering for a long term condo owner.

I didn't know her well enough to say she was a friend, but she was always friendly.  And helpful.  She was the first HOA president and was on the Board many times after that initial year.  Jan was a lawyer which was very helpful going from a developer owned apartment complex to a condo conversion.

The last half of her short life (she was 63) was a struggle with alcohol.  She was also a big time smoker.  Very sad no matter the person's potential.  Her two friends here put in joint effort with champagne, sparkling cider, hot coffee and each attendee provided some nibbles.  Those who wanted to recall a Jan story stood up to speak ... I learned how influential she was in those early days. 

Her idea to turn the rental office into a Clubhouse room.  She started our lending library (which is now five bookshelves large and also has games and puzzles) which has both books and magazines.  Comfy furniture donated through the years.  It is a great place to go when you get tired of looking at your own four walls.

Our community is not a designated elder complex or even an over 50 neighborhood.  But mostly we are both.  We've lost two long term owners in the past three months.  There are several who are suffering with arthritis and diabetes and other age related conditions.  Yet we have also attracted a few younger families with children.  A baby even!

Determination to keep this place intergenerational.  It's hard not to smile when you hear the laughter of children!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

LAUGHING OUT LOUD

Since my summer road trip with my Sister and JEH, I've been listening to books.  Audible allows me to use my iPhone which is great to plug into the Grandmothermobile.  AND ... I can put in my earbuds and put the phone in my pocket and do household chores!  My oh my can I get a lot done when my mind is occupied.

I'm now listening to Bossypants by Tina Fey.  Narrated by Tina Fey!  Books are always better when read by the author.  They know exactly where to pause or what to emphasize.  Her book is HYSTERICAL!  After dropping off my little firefighter back at his parents, I was listening for the 10 minutes on the way home.  I laughed out loud!  Alone in a car!!  It's getting harder and harder for me to turn it off.

There are some pros and cons to Audible books.  You can choose whether you think any of these are pros or cons!  Addictive. Can't hear people knock at the door.  People may wonder about my laughing or crying with no visible clues that I'm listening to a book.  Some books are free from the library but often I hate to wait.  It's a little cumbersome to load but I guess I better get back at it.  I've been spending $15/month to have a good time!

P.S.  I'm naming my Taj Mahal of a vehicle Louise.  Because the new travel trailer in Seattle has been named Thelma.  I'm going to follow them around next summer ....